Carefully, and with tact, of course, but also forcefully. One benefit of such conversations is that discussing the nature of learning is usually a good thing, especially for educators. It is important to keep in mind that many practitioners are invested in the notion of learning styles, and this investment has been reinforced through standards, publications they have read, workshops they may have attended, as well as personal experience. It does little good just to say that the research support for learning styles is weak at best. One has to recognize that the values and intentions that drive such beliefs are usually good ones. Educators typically care about their students and want them, ideally all of them, to succeed. These are good values and intentions. What is actually done to bring them to fruition, however, depends on the quality of one’s knowledge and attention to detail.
I often begin such conversations by asking what one means when referring to learning styles and why one believes they are important. Only after trying to understand where the other person is coming from, is it sensible to bring in alternative ideas and arguments. Of course, it is usually best to proceed carefully, but one does have to care enough to actually raise questions and challenge preconceptions. If the other party shows interest, or curiosity, I will bring up challenges to the concept of learning style, including the findings of those who have conducted and reviewed the research in this area. If you are going to do this, however, you should be prepared. That is, it pays to actually have read the research, and carefully evaluated the results, before you begin to challenge other people’s perspectives. You should be prepared to provide citations (see the bibliography provided in my PPT presentation). I also try as hard as I can not to attack or insult the person, but to focus on the construct, or ideas, under questions. In the end it is a fine balance between not wanting to offend folks and the desire to raise awareness regarding new and better knowledge available that may not be on the “radar screen” of particular individuals. But if “truth” (I realize truth is a problematic concept, but all I have in mind here is new and better information that is useful) and your discipline matter to you, then you are, I believe, obligated to engage in such conversations even in the face of disinterest and opposition. The fact is that on both a conceptual and an evidential basis, the concept of learning style does not live up to the promise that some have promoted in terms of its benefits for the classroom, whatever side of the classroom you may be on. On the up side, we do have considerable knowledge about how learning actually works and how this knowledge can inform classroom practice. Best practice, should be informed by the best science available.